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Palau election primary offers heavy competition

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KOROR (Marianas Business Journal/Pacnews) —  Palau is preparing for the general election on Nov. 3, with four candidates gunning for the top presidential post.

The four candidates will face each other in the primary election on Sept. 22, which will determine the top two vote getters, who will battle it out in the general elections.

The presidential candidates are Surangel Whipps Jr., who is currently president and CEO of Surangel and Sons Co. and is a former senator; Vice President Raynold Oilouch; former President Johnson Toribiong; and Alan R. Seid, chairman of the Micronesia Investment and Development Corp., and a former senator.

President Tommy Remengesau Jr. is not eligible for re-election and said he will no longer seek a public post when he ends his fourth term this year.

For the senatorial line-up, 27 candidates are vying for 13 seats, with 11 of the incumbents running for reelection.

Two candidates are running for vice president — Sens. Frank Kyota and Uduch Sengebau Sr.

For the 16 House of Delegates seats there are 26 candidates.

The candidates collected their official ballot numbers on Aug. 13.

Absentee ballots, however, are at risk of being delayed as a bill by Remengesau to extend the deadline for receiving absentee ballots was still pending.

Due to shipping and mail delivery delays as a result of Covid-19, the president is seeking to extend the deadline to enable the Palau Election Commission receive absentee ballots from seven days to 10 days and extend the certification of the election by another seven days.

The bill stated, “Due to the unprecedented pandemic, disruption of international supply chains —including international mail — has impacted deadlines required in the Republic’s 2020 General Elections.”

The primary and general election will go on as scheduled, but because the law is strict on the receipt deadline of absentee ballots, shipping delays could render the votes invalid.

According to the election commission, more than 2,000 absentee ballots for the upcoming general election could be impacted.

Due to border closure, Palau only receives one cargo flight a week. With the U.S. Postal Service experiencing service cutbacks, absentee ballots may not reach the Palau commission on time.

Palau has 16,420 registered voters. Between 2,000 to 3,000 absentee ballots are sent out. Overseas votes are usually much sought after by the candidates.

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